Practical Dad

Kids and Gun Control

That anybody takes another human life is a tragedy, compounded by the subsequent suicide in front of others.  Lives are altered in so many ways and the recriminations begin as fingers point in so many directions,. fingers often pointed by people who compound shock with cluelessness in vain search of an answer.  That it happened is terrible enough but now comments are being made that add fuel to the fire for gun control, most especially Bob Costas and his halftime commentary about gun control.  The gist of his remark was that young men are incapable of self-control and that permitting them ready access to weapons is simply setting the stage for tragedy.  But what does this mean when a family is about to train the kids in the use of firearms?  Is Costas right in his comments that our youngsters are incapable of self-control and thus in far greater danger by sheer dint of ready access to weapons?

The comments are outlandish, but timely since we're going to proceed with firearms training come Spring.  I'm not a survivalist and have no bunker accessible via a hidden passage beneath the fishpond waterfall, but we will - now that the youngest is old enough - teach them how to use the firearms safely.  This is partially for the sheer fun of it as well as the fact that society has grown coarser and more violent and I want to be sure that they have a firm handle on things.  There's a greater availability of gun and firearm games on various platforms, such as Xbox and Wii, and while we've worked hard to control access, I know that they're playing with friends at their houses; if they're going to do so, I want to assure that they actually have an understanding of the real thing.  This is akin to finally letting the nine year-old watch Saving Private Ryan so that he has a clue that the violence in warfare isn't the sterile, harmless type that they're fed online. 

There are several issues that I have with the comments and controversy arising from the tragedy. 

  • The first is the confusion that's shown by some commentators about the Second Amendment.  The fact that we have a significant standing mililtary doesn't mean that weapons for the populace is unnecesary; part of the right to own arms is that the citizenry have the right to protect themselves from the government should things slide out of control.  While we depended upon a militia at the founding of the nation instead of a standing army, there was real concern that the populace also be able to defend themselves from tyranny.
  • The second is that this is a response to an exceptionally high profile case; there isn't the outcry over the chronic gun violence that permeates inner city America or the Mexican border and I doubt that this incident should throw the whole thing over into a repeal of the Second Amendment.
  • The third is the simple realization that football is a violent sport and a profession that rewards violence; the men who play football are, as a whole, more aggressive than the average person.  This means that these men live their lives with a familiarity of violence that the large majority of Americans don't understand.  Their world is contact and damage and while I don't expect that the great majority are going to wander around beating the average joe to a pulp, I do expect that they have a greater sense than the average joe of how situations can go awry and lead to violence and they want to be certain that they're protected.
  • The fourth point is that I don't view this tragedy as one that's attributable solely to Belcher's age and gender, but one that's ultimately attributable to some degree of instability and mental illness.  This is a man who lost control and after killing his girlfriend - the mother of his child - was overwhelmed by remorse to the extreme.  This situation could have easily occurred, and does, within the general population.  If a plumber goes kills another and then himself, we don't blame it on his age and gender.

What Costas should refer to is a situation akin to the controversy surrounding sportswriter Jason Whidlock's criticism of Colin Kaepernick's tattoos.  Whidlock's commentary was that the extreme tattooing was symbolic of a prison culture that didn't jibe with the persona of a professional quarterback; this does tie into the gun violence issue in that multiple football players have been embroiled in the past decade in the thuggish behavior that derives from the gangsta mentality of the inner city gang.  Multiple players - Adam "Pacman" Jones, Santana Moss, Ray Lewis - have been involved in deadly situations with gun usage.  Along with Michael Vick's dogfighting, these evolved from the violent, unstable mentality fostered by the inner city gangs in which nobody else matters but another member of your own group. 

So how does this relate to my own family scenario?  The gangs have always existed, but have especially flourished in the broken family environment of the inner city.  The gang becomes the family to the member instead of the parents and siblings and the gang imprints its own family "values" onto the new member.  While these values permit and encourage the use of weapons, they do nothing to teach the responsibility that must extend naturally with the potential of the weapon.  Guns are simply symbolic of the real issue here, the rise and celebration of the gangsta culture via popular media and electronic gaming; a culture that sprouted from the destruction of the family in the inner cities.

If Costas wants to focus his attention somewhere, then he should focus it here.  I'm angry that in their view, so many responsible families will suffer for the irresponsibility of the few who flourished and fell in the rise of the gangsta culture.  I live in a state in which hunting and firearms flourish and I know of so many parents who take great care to assure that their children understand and respect the power of the gun.  Ths issues are so much deeper than portrayed in the media and I resent that for a few, the ready elimination of a symbol is tantamount to resolving the issue.  If you're going to have or bring a weapon into the house, be certain to exercise the responsibility that comes with it so that the media monster isn't fed with even more fodder.

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